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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Book to Movie: One For The Money

Janet Evanovich's Hit Novel Comes to the Silver Screen. How Does It Fare?

By Chris Sabga

Janet Evanovich's series of novels about bounty hunter Stephanie Plum have a loyal and devoted following. Heads rolled amongst her fans when it was announced that the controversial Katherine Heigl would be taking on the plum role of Plum.

The book is witty and charming, wonderfully written, with a memorable main character. The film tries to capture the zany tone of its source material, but it never quite succeeds. Almost everything feels wrong: the tone, the colors, and even some of the casting choices.

The problem, however, isn't with Katherine Heigl. She does an admirable job of transforming herself into a down and dirty Jersey girl. It's just a shame that her metamorphosis is wasted in such a mediocre, bland flick. If only Heigl had saved this turn for a more prestigious, dramatic film, she might have gained deserved recognition as a serious, talented actress – perhaps even Oscar consideration – similar to what "The Blind Side" was able to do for Sandra Bullock, whose early career resembles Heigl's.

Turning an almost 400-page book into a 90-minute movie is usually problematic, but the film adaptation of "One For The Money" is edited reasonably well. Scenes from the book are condensed or combined, but nothing egregious.

As lighthearted as the book is, the movie goes too far in that direction, stripping the story of its dark edges and heart for the sake of unnecessary silliness. The character of fellow bounty hunter Ranger (Daniel Sunjata), in particular, feels whitewashed.

There is one major improvement from page to screen though: the prostitute Lula (played wonderfully by Sherri Shepherd) is far more engaging and dynamic in the film. Perhaps that's a credit to the talent of the actress, who takes a small role and almost steals the show from the main cast.

It's a generally accepted "fact" that "the book is always better than the movie," but the disparity between the two is extremely wide in this case. The earliest readers of "One For The Money" must've known they had stumbled onto something special. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Evanovich has written many more numbered Stephanie Plum novels. A film sequel, on the other hand, doesn't seem very likely.

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